For years now, The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock has been sitting on my shelf, mostly unused, occasionally looked through, simultaneously taunting and intimidating me. I will admit, despite testimonies to the contrary from many fellow Charlotte Mason homeschool moms, to wondering just how relevant a book about nature, written over a hundred years ago, would be. Not to mention the sheer overwhelming size of the thing! But to judge by the few pages of The Teaching of Nature-Study chapter that I’ve read, I’ve been missing out.
I love that while Comstock lists practical knowledge as a reason for nature study, she emphasizes that it is by no means the most important one. She goes on to list love, companionship, and health of body and mind as better reasons to pursue it, both for teacher and student. I was particularly struck by her argument that teachers need to prioritize nature study for their own sanity, and despite pressures that would crowd it out of the schedule:
Out in this, God’s beautiful world, there is everything waiting to heal lacerated nerves, to strengthen tired muscles, to please and content the soul that is torn to shreds with duty and care. To the teacher who turns to nature’s healing, nature-study in the schoolroom is not a trouble; it is a sweet, fresh breath of air blown across the heat of radiators and the noisome odor of overcrowded small humanity. She who opens her eyes and her heart nature-ward even once a week finds nature-study in the schoolroom a delight and an abiding joy. What does such a one find in her schoolroom instead of the terrors of discipline, the eternal watching and eternal nagging to keep the pupils quiet and at work? She finds, first of all, companionship with her children; and second, she finds that without planning or going on a far voyage, she has found health and strength.
I can definitely identify with having a “soul that is torn to shreds with duty and care”. This morning I was tired and cranky, and didn’t feel like driving anywhere, but meeting friends for a few hours at the park was the best thing for everyone.
Some books we’ve been enjoying together recently:
- Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier is our current lunch-time read-aloud. It’s fantasy, and quite strange, but I think all are enjoying it.
- We finished listening to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in the car on Saturday, and have already started the next one, due to popular demand. I definitely enjoyed Jim Dale’s narration much better than when I tried to read it to Miss A, but I still didn’t care for the ghost party bit.
- We have almost finished H.A. Rey’s Find the Constellations, and last night we had a chance to go stargazing and find some of the constellations we learned about, as well as see Jupiter and some of its moons through a friend’s telescope. 🙂